NSD 2018 Wrap-Up: Ranking the ACC classes
Now that National Signing Day has come and gone, here is a closer look at the ACC team recruiting rankings shook out and how each team finished.
MIAMI - No. 1 in ACC, No. 6 nationally
THE GOOD: Miami signed its best class since 2008 and its haul ranked No. 1 in the ACC. The Hurricanes’ class was headlined by five-stars Mark Pope and Lorenzo Lingard, both of whom signed during the Early Signing Period. Miami’s biggest get on National Signing Day was retaining the commitment of defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, who flirted with a number of other teams down the stretch. UM did most of its work in December, which made for a stress-free Letter of Intent Day. The headline on Miami’s class is the work done in South Florida, where Mark Richt absolutely dominated.
THE BAD: Miami missed out on two five-star cornerbacks, as Tyson Campbell and Patrick Surtain both elected to go elsewhere on signing day. Miami never had much of a chance with Surtain, but losing Campbell to Georgia stung a bit. That said, having a top five class certainly eased that pain.
CLEMSON - No. 2 in ACC, No. 8 nationally
THE GOOD: There is a lot of “good” in this Clemson recruiting class, starting with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 player in the 2018 class. Billed as the best quarterback prospect in many years, Lawrence will challenge for playing time as a freshman - and he isn’t the only one. The Tigers signed five other five-stars in Justyn Ross, Xavier Thomas, K.J. Henry, Jackson Carman, and Derion Kendrick. Led by Thomas and Henry, Clemson reloaded on the defensive side of the ball, signing seven defenders that were rated four-stars or better. The cherry on top for the Tigers has to be signing the top players in Alabama (Ross) and Ohio (Carman), keeping them away from the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes.
THE BAD: The “bad” is minimal for Clemson right now. The Tigers lost on Leon O’Neal and Richard Gouraige down the stretch, but signing those two was really a long shot. The worst thing for Clemson’s 2018 recruiting class was the fact that the Tigers were strapped for scholarships and only able to sign 17 players. Otherwise, this could have been a historic class.
FLORIDA STATE - No. 3 in ACC, No. 10 nationally
THE GOOD: The good is in the close. Florida State shot up the rankings down the stretch and was able to land prospects out of Armwood High School in the process. Armwood players have traditionally spurned the Seminoles, a fact that made landing Rivals100 wide receiver Warren Thompson and four-star defensive end Malcom Lamar even more notable. The top 10 class head coach Willie Taggart was able to land was one of the cycle's great comeback stories, as he got off to a late start after accepting the job.
THE BAD: FSU was not able to get a quarterback, which is a problem because of a lack of depth on the current roster. After seeing targets Emory Jones, Michael Penix and James Foster all sign elsewhere, the position is a major area of need in 2019.
VIRGINIA TECH - No. 4 in ACC, No. 22 nationally
THE GOOD: Justin Fuente has increased Virginia Tech’s recruiting ranking every year he has coached the Hokies, and this class could go a long way toward helping them get over the hump. Seven players from Virginia signed with Virginia Tech but the six that signed from North Carolina could prove to be more impactful. Landing Rivals250 linebacker Dax Hollifield on National Signing Day was one of the biggest gets on the recruiting trail for the Hokies in a few years. Virginia Tech did a great job of filling high priority positions (wide receiver, quarterback, and linebacker) with top talent and finding players that should quickly develop into multi-year contributors.
THE BAD: Virginia Tech desperately wanted to add a top-tier offensive lineman such as Rasheed Walker. The Hokies came up short there, and only signed one of the top five players in their state. Look for that to possibly change in 2019.
NORTH CAROLINA - No. 5 in ACC, No. 23 nationally
THE GOOD: The Tar Heels should have one of the nation’s most explosive offenses over the next couple years after signing a pair of dynamic wide receivers in Jordyn Adams and Dyami Brown. Combine them with the additions along the offensive line and two more quarterbacks, and the future of Larry Fedora’s offense looks bright. Defensively, North Carolina added big-time pass rushers in Chris Collins and Lancine Turay and picked up a lot of depth in the secondary.
THE BAD: This is a good class and the Tar Heels should be happy about the players that are coming to Chapel Hill, but it’s difficult to get over what this class could have been if they had landed some of their top in-state targets. North Carolina lost a commitment from Payton Wilson to rival NC State and were major players early on for five-stars Zamir White and K.J. Henry as well as four-stars Rick Sandidge and Dax Hollifield.
LOUISVILLE - No. 6 in ACC, No. 31 nationally
THE GOOD: The Cardinals continued to do impressive work in Florida, as Bobby Petrino pulled four-star prospects Trenell Troutman, Marcus Riley and Chandler Jones out of the Sunshine State. Holding off hard-charging Nebraska for Riley made that victory even sweeter. Louisville signed 12 players from Florida, where it's obviously found the key to success.
THE BAD: Finishing 31st in the national team rankings isn’t awful by any stretch. Make no mistake, this Louisville class is impressive. At the same time, the Cardinals should have even higher expectations. A few misses on elite-level recruits held the program outside the top 25, which may seem like a lofty goal on the surface. That said, that sort of ranking is extremely possible for a program that seems to be creating more buzz with each passing year.
NC STATE - No. 7 in ACC, No. 34 nationally
THE GOOD: The Wolfpack should be extremely excited about the top players they signed. Running back Ricky Person should play immediately and flipping linebacker Payton Wilson from the rival Tar Heels was huge. Keeping defensive tackle Alim McNeill in-state should pay dividends and going out-of-state to get quarterback Devin Leary was a major addition. Signing little-known De’Von Graves without many teams finding out about him was a big accomplishment. One of the other things the staff can hang its hat on is how it fought off many of the best teams in the country to sign defensive back Taiyon Palmer.
THE BAD: NC State’s class is top heavy. There are five four-star prospects in this class, along with the 19 three- and two-stars. As the NC State program experiences more success there should be more quality depth in its recruiting classes.
PITTSBURGH - No. 8 in ACC, No. 36 nationally
THE GOOD: After ranking in the bottom half of the conference in most offensive statistical categories and allowing more than 3,000 passing yards last year, the Panthers prioritized signing offensive linemen, quarterbacks, defensive linemen and defensive backs. They filled all of those needs with a good mixture of prospects that could contribute early in their careers and others that should develop into very good players. The jewel of this class is Rivals250 running back Mychale Salahuddin, who should play from day one. Keep an eye on defensive lineman Devin Danielson as one of those players who could perform better than his ranking.
THE BAD: Finishing with a top 40 recruiting class after a 5-7 season is a pretty big accomplishment. There are a lot of players with high ceilings in this class, but Pitt missing on western Pennsylvania prospects Phil Jurkovec, Matthew Bauer, TJ Banks, Kwantel Raines and others hurts.
GEORGIA TECH - No. 9 in ACC, No. 52 nationally
THE GOOD: The Yellow Jackets clearly made an effort to reload on the defensive line and defensive backfield. They accomplished that to the tune of six signees on the defensive line and four defensive backs. The class is led by Rivals250 cornerback Jaylon King and four-stars Justice Dingle and James Graham, who Georgia Tech flipped from Virginia Tech during the Early Signing Period. On the defensive line, the Yellow Jackets' top signee was defensive tackle T.K. Chimedza out of Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy.
THE BAD: Georgia Tech is known for developing talent, but it’s always nice when players arrive on campus closer to being able to contribute. The strength and conditioning staff will need to work their magic with many of these prospects before they can be counted on.
WAKE FOREST - No. 10 in ACC, No. 60 nationally
THE GOOD: An 8-5 season with wins over in-state rivals Duke and NC State caught a lot of people's eyes. On the recruiting trail the Demon Deacons will surprise many with how good some of these players will be. First and foremost, Wake Forest got bigger by signing four offensive linemen, led by 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Michael Edwards. Dave Clawson and his coaching staff locked up their quarterback early on in the very accurate Sam Hartman.
THE BAD: The top talent is a little thin in Wake Forest’s class because it wasn’t able to capitalize on wins over in-state foes. Also, the Demon Deacons only signed three in-state prospects. That’s not generally a recipe for success.
SYRACUSE - No. 11 in ACC, No. 64 nationally
THE GOOD: Syracuse’s 2018 class is geographically diverse, which is how the program needs to operate in order to be competitive. Dino Babers did solid work around the Northeast, but also reached into Mississippi to sign massive running back Jarveon Howard, who has the build of an SEC starter. Syracuse also kept up its work in Florida, where it slings out countless offers. Quarterback Chance Amie is a high-upside prospect out of Texas who has elite size and can extend plays.
THE BAD: Syracuse has not signed a prospect rated higher than three-stars since 2014. So while the program continues to improve under Babers, taking the next step is exceedingly difficult without increased talent. Eventually, the Orange will hit a ceiling if they don’t upgrade the talent level significantly. That said, the 2018 class isn’t an awful haul, by any stretch.
DUKE - No. 12 in ACC, No. 65 nationally
THE GOOD: Duke’s class may not be rated highly, but there is some serious talent here. Four-star defensive tackle Tahj Rice is a big-time prospect and linebacker Rocky Shelton will see the field early in his career. Defensive back Nate Thompson brings great size to the secondary and Jeremiah Lewis will solidify the cornerback position. David Cutcliffe’s offense needed more size on the outside and every wide receiver signed is at least 6-foot-2.
THE BAD: The Blue Devils could only sign 16 players this year because there weren’t many scholarships available. If they would have been able to sign more players this class probably would have been rated much higher.
VIRGINIA - No. 13 in ACC, No. 67 nationally
THE GOOD: Virginia addressed many of its concerns with this recruiting class. Bronco Mendenhall and his staff signed four wide receivers, four linebackers and four offensive linemen. There is a lot to like about linebackers Javar Garrett, Noah Taylor, and Grant Misch. Those three should be key pieces of Virginia’s defense down the line. Keep an eye on tight end signee Bobby Haskins. If it doesn’t work out at tight end, he could turn out to be a big-time offensive tackle.
BOSTON COLLEGE - No. 14 in ACC, No. 69 nationally
THE GOOD: This was a pretty balanced class for Boston College. The Eagles got a couple of good additions on the offensive line, led by four-star Finn Dirstine, and added five linebackers, three of which are from New Jersey. Adding quarterbacks Johnny Langan and Matt Valecce was very important because it really solidifies Boston College’s depth at the position.
THE BAD: It’s hard to point out major difference-makers in this Boston College recruiting class. Even after beating expectations and finishing 7-6, it doesn’t seem as if Boston College gained much momentum on the recruiting trail.